“twas the night before Chistmas and all through the Hospital
not a creature was stirring, not even the new battery power-gerbil…..
Not a stocking was hung from any ceiling with or without care,
and no one expected St. Nicholas to be here.”
Well that is more than enough of a teaser but, yes, I am still in the hospital and will remain so probably till Saturday. As the world prepares to celebrate the birth of the Messiah, I have had some time today and last night to think about my own celebration of this singular moment in Christian humankind’s history. I can look our the window of my hospital room and look down on today equivalents of urban shepherds or “bedouins.” They are the homeless sleeping tonight and almost every night under the interstate outside of St. Vincent de Paul headquarters and across from the hospital here in St. Pete. It seems to me that they are more alike the people to whom the angels appeared in the Gospel tonight than I. I have it so much better – heat, warm water, food, loving care and concern, blankets that protect me from the unusual chill of these last few nights. It seems to me that the Lord is using me this Christmas to reflect on how lucky I really am, not how unfortunate to be in the hospital this Christmas eve and day.
Usually on Christmas eve I celebrate three Vigil Masses for Christmas – somewhere in Citrus or Hernando County for the early Mass for Children, a Mass in Spanish somewhere in Pasco County or Hillsborough around 830pm and Midnight Mass at the Cathedral of St. Jude followed by Christmas day mass in the morning at a local prison, jail or detention center. Tonight, like most of the rest of you, I will simply attend Mass celebrated by someone else. The hospital has a Mass at 730pm tonight, Christmas eve, which I hope to simply attend, in my wheel chair with the others here who are well enough to come down for Mass. I am a lucky man, Christmas, Eucharist, celebrating Christ’s birth in a far more simple and much more appropriate way perhaps than in the past. God is truly good.
So while I might have felt a little sorry for myself when it was decided (largely by myself) to remain through Christmas, I have been graced with new insights about how God today, December 24th and 25th, 2009 interacts with humanity and how lucky we are to be children of the Lord who cared enough on a cold winter’s night to send him Son to earth as a harbinger and bringer of peace. Tonight I find Mary and Joseph in the lives and love of my doctors, my incredibly patient nurses and hospital caregivers, and family and friends who tonight pray for me. I am blessed beyond belief. I have had neither the time nor the energy this year to buys gifts, sign and send cards. Maybe, just maybe in this simplicity I am coming closer and closer to the true spirit of Christmas – sharing hope in the Lord, trust in His ways, preaching his Gospel of compassion and acceptance of suffering and bringing confidence to others. Who knows? Merry Christmas to all and to all a GOOD NIGHT.
Bishop Robert N. Lynch